Last year, the country was filthy with tributes to health care workers – doctors, nurses, hospital staff – who had to deal with the coronavirus-driven near apocalypse of our medical system. The number of patients was overwhelming, a tsunami of death and suffering that tested the limits of available equipment and the strength and nerve of those who had signed up for jobs where they tried to save lives and ease suffering. And, oh, how we appreciated it. Goddamn, how we put out signs and clanged pots and cheered and applauded. We knew we owed them for their sacrifices, so clearly visible in videos and photos, for their own pain and isolation from their loved ones.
Then given a chance to demonstrate how much we cared about them, being asked to do the absolute least to give them some relief, to get vaccinated and wear a mask, millions of us said, “Nah, fuck that. I’m batshit insane and I wanna party.” So we have had spike after spike of Covid cases. It would have been more honest for many people to have put out signs that read “Suck it, Doc!” and to have chanted, “Fuck you, medi-bitches!”
As we are seeing our 5th (really?) surge in Covid cases, with hospitalizations rising and at least 1000 deaths a day that we have just weirdly decided is fine, we are getting ready to put the exhausted health care workers through another trip to the hellscape of Covid-overcrowding in the ICUs. Michigan, for instance, is seeing a surge that is coming close to the highest number of hospitalizations it’s seen. The state just recorded the highest weekly caseload since the start of the pandemic.
So it’s not surprising that a large number of the people who care for us are saying, “No, fuck this shit” and leaving their jobs. “The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the health-care sector has lost nearly half a million workers since February 2020. Morning Consult, a survey research company, says that 18 percent of health-care workers have quit since the pandemic began,” says Ed Yong in a recent article in The Atlantic. Read the polls of nurses. 66% have contemplated giving up health care altogether. And “76% say that people who have yet to be vaccinated threaten nurses’ physical and mental well-being.” If you’re unvaccinated by choice, go fuck yourself. You’re hurting all of us not just with the virus but by making the jobs of medical workers miserable by clogging the system with your hacking asses.
I have two friends who work in the ICU in a large New Jersey hospital. One of them has been doing it for a long time, another just started her job at the beginning of the pandemic. The older one has described the dozens of people she saw die during the January peak. The younger one is getting treated for PTSD due to the “war zone” conditions she had to work in during that awful period. Even though things haven’t gotten bad again for them because we happen to live in an area with a decent percentage of vaccinated sane people, I truly worry about them if shit goes crazy again. And that worry reverberates throughout the profession. We had a nursing shortage in this country prior to the pandemic. It’s a full-blown crisis now.
It doesn’t have to be this way. If a great many more than 59% of us were fully vaccinated, we wouldn’t even be worried about overwhelming the health care system. The vast, vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths are the unvaccinated. The only reason that we’re not going to be forced back into lockdown is because of those of us who are vaccinated. So you’re welcome, you selfish unvaccinated fucks.
So. on Thursday, be thankful for the medical workers, the nurses, the aides, the doctors, the staff that cleans the rooms and makes the food, the techs, and more, and maybe offer a toast to them for keeping the country from falling into a complete fucktastrophe over the last 19 months or so. And if anyone sitting around your table isn’t vaccinated, ask if they give even a single shit about fact that they are ruining the country’s already-unstable health care system, that they are hurting the helpers. Chances are they won’t. But they should know what’s going to be their fault.
Oh, and if that unvaccinated person happens to be a health care worker? Just stare at them like they are fucking insane. Because they are.
Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on November 23, 2021 on The Rude Pundit, a website featuring commentary by Lee Papa. It was reproduced here with the consent of Mr. Papa.
Image Credit: Financial Times